Suzuki dealer's sales top in U.S.

A lot full of low-priced cars and a boost from the Cash for Clunkers program has propelled a local dealer to the top spot in the country for sales of Suzukis.

Suzuki of Wichita leads about 349 other U.S. dealers of the Japanese brand in year-to-date sales through September, according to the dealership's president, Scott Pitman, and officials at Brea, Calif.-based American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Pitman declined to disclose figures but said his East Kellogg dealership's sales are up 84 percent from the nine-month period in 2008.

"We were doing well and growing before Cash for Clunkers," Pitman said. "(But) we posted some huge numbers for Cash for Clunkers."

Suzuki of Wichita's increase contrasts with the brand's U.S. sales, which were down 55 percent year-to-date.

Pitman said the dealership, which he owns with new and used car dealer Brandon Steven, completed 265 clunkers deals.

"That certainly helped," he said.

But he said that even without the clunkers program his dealership would still be highest in Suzuki sales because every dealer for the brand participated.

Pitman thinks there are several forces driving his dealership's higher sales.

One is the brand's affordably priced vehicles, which start at just under $13,000 and top out at just under $24,000, he said. All of Suzukis four models also qualified for Clunkers, he said.

"People are making economical, sound decisions," Pitman said. "There's still a lot of value-conscious buying."

He also said he thinks the dealership's customer-service efforts are helping sales.

"We have great product, great people and I think out processes are so customer friendly," he said.

Most of the dealership's sales come from Wichita. He said only 20 percent of its sales come from outside the area.

Pitman said the challenge will be to finish out the year at No. 1.

Last year, Suzuki of Wichita ranked fourth in sales among dealers nationally, and his goal was to reach No. 1 in 2009.

But Pitman said it's a narrow gap between his dealership and one in Pittsburgh, which as of September trailed his by sales of nine Suzukis.